Photo of Kinto Sepia Jug and Kinto Ceramic Lab Plate

Coming Soon: Handbrew Publication

As this is my first ever guest post for Eight Ounce, I thought it would be wise to give a little introduction so y’all know whose words you're reading. My name is Kathleen and I am a Lead Roaster in Calgary, AB. My roasting portfolio currently includes Monogram, Coffee Concept, and a handful of others who produce under their own labels through SchoolHouse Roasting Collaborative. While I love roasting coffee, my real passion is found in the community aspect. I light up when I get to help others enjoy and understand our favourite brown drink on deeper levels. I also believe that any sphere of influence gives us opportunities to use our passions to make the world a better place. Having said all that, I’d like to take a few moments to paint the background for a new, massive, community-fuelled project I’m about to launch: Handbrew Publication.

Photo of Fellow Stagg Pour-Over Kettle and Chemex ClassicFellow Stagg Pour-Over Kettle in action, filtering into a Chemex Classic 6 Cup

Increasingly, my social media feed has had more awareness of the issues facing coffee farmers. Most of it has to do with industry friends, incredible individuals that I’ve had the privilege of working alongside at various points in my coffee roasting career, raising the problems as a rally cry. I’ve seen roasteries increasingly get on board with projects to help support farms beyond buying their green coffee. Yet, it also has to do with rising global awareness. Living in the age of information, one cannot help but be influenced by struggles on the other side of the world. We feel the tug of humanity when a natural disaster hits a foreign country, when a drought or famine knocks out a food or commodity supply, when a global pandemic changes the way the world interacts internationally.

I have no doubt that COVID-19 is going down in the history books. We are only beginning to see glimpses of how the impact of the past year is going to ripple and echo through this decade and beyond.

Sweeping panoramic views of a coffee farm in Nyamigoye Parish, UgandaSweeping panoramic views of a coffee farm in Nyamigoye Parish, Uganda

From what I’ve gathered, coffee farms are in trouble. With lower demand, roasteries have had to back out of green contracts, which makes things difficult for exporters and farmers alike. The lack of demand coupled with increasing production costs in the global supply chain is creating a progressively unstable market. The market is increasingly competitive for specialty coffee yet not all farms are able to produce at this level if their “bread and butter” crops are sitting unwanted in green warehouses. Commodity coffee prices have fallen to just above a dollar per pound. Not to mention global shipping containers are harder to come by, leaving green to sit at origin, and lose value or even customers, if the delay drastically impacts roasting schedules. On top of that, extra COVID-19 sanitation protocols are required of the farmers and producers, again increasing costs and decreasing available labour.

A Now Africa Initiative team of Lead Farmers training on site in Nyamigoye, UgandaA Now Africa Initiative team of Lead Farmers training on site in Nyamigoye, Uganda

Honestly, the best thing to do is to support your local roasters as well as you are financially able. Choose roasters who are transparent about the farms they support, who are open about how they handle their green purchasing, and shy away from the mega-roasters who have no concern for anything other than profit. I guarantee you’ll be able to find a coffee you love from a roaster who cares not only about their people here in Canada but also their farmers worldwide. (If you don’t have a local roaster, Eight Ounce stocks a great selection of incredible roasters!)

Beyond that, there are some amazing movements to lend support to coffee farmers, the backbone of the industry. I’ve been working on one myself.

Lead Farmers celebrating their graduation from the NAI program in UgandaLead Farmers celebrating their graduation from the NAI program in Uganda

Enter Handbrew Publication. This project is the intersection of multiple passions: learning and growing in hand brew methods, making space for others to gain recognition, growing awareness of issues that face the industry, and giving back to those who are arguably most in need of support. The publication itself is a collection of some of the best coffee brew recipes from industry professionals all over the world, augmented with articles and beautiful photography. It is an opportunity to try never-seen-before recipes used by baristas during a variety of coffee competitions, bringing wisdom from Canada’s top three 2020 barista champions and beyond into your home, and learn from their techniques to make better coffee yourself. Each contributor wrote up a mini bio so you can be introduced to their career in the specialty coffee industry. And some of them asked if they could write articles instead, hoping to add some narrative to the mix. I’ve honestly been blown away by the support and generosity shown me by those who have been part of this project.

By this point, I imagine you’re wondering what this has to do with coffee farmers and their woes. Well, it’s simple. 100% of the profit from the sales of Handbrew Publication is going to our friends at The Chain Collaborative. Founded and run by Nora Burkey, TCC is an organization committed to supporting leaders already living and working in coffee communities, giving them the resources and support they need to create change. Rather than deciding from an outside perspective what would be best, they empower local individuals to bring their dreams to life. The grassroot nature of these movements is what brings lasting and sustainable change to the coffee growing regions they work with.

Julies Mbabazi, proudly showing off a heavy laden branch of ripe coffee cherries, Nyamigoye, UgandaJulies Mbabazi, proudly showing off a heavy laden branch of ripe coffee cherries, Nyamigoye, Uganda

After sharing my initial project idea with Nora, I asked about coffee mills (one of the biggest projects I was aware of, just because I love to dream big and work for a lasting legacy); it turned out, one of TCC’s partners, Now Africa Initiative, was keen to build a mill in Nyamigoye Parish, Uganda. Western Uganda has the least access to coffee mills. Having no infrastructure of their own, the coffee farmers have no choice but to send their coffee to whatever cooperative or washing station is closest, and are very likely to receive less pay for their increased efforts. Their coffee lots are not given the opportunity to be processed as micro lots or even a local cooperative lot. This immediately decreases the value of their work.

With your help, Handbrew Publication is going to do something to change that. All of the money that is raised for TCC is going directly to the mill building project in Nyamigoye.

A storage facility built by NAI with the financial support of TCC in UgandaA storage facility built by NAI with the financial support of TCC in Uganda

Access to a mill will provide training, profit sharing, and clean water, all of which elevate the quality of life in coffee-farming communities. It will give the farmers opportunities to sell directly to exporters or even export themselves. And this mill will stand for generations, impacting the lives of coffee farmers long after our own lifespan, leaving a legacy behind of what can happen when people stand together and generously give for the sake of others.

Clean coffee set-up featuring the Kinto Sepia Jug, Kinto Ceramic Lab Plate, and NotNeutral Vero Glass
Clean coffee set-up featuring the Kinto Sepia Jug, Kinto Ceramic Lab Plate, and NotNeutral Vero Glass
My friends over at Eight Ounce have been wonderfully supportive of this project; they even supplied some beautiful gear for the photos. Printed on the glossy pages, you’ll find products from Fellow (Stagg Pour-Over Kettle Polished Copper, Stagg Double Wall Carafe, Mighty Small Glass Carafe, Joey Mug), Kinto (Kronos, Sepia, Ceramic Lab) and Hario (Conical Beaker). Having beautiful gear made such a difference in the aesthetics; it would not look nearly so glamorous without the support of Eight Ounce. I’ve since added a few of these pieces to my personal brew collection.

Fellow Mighty Small Glass Carafe bringing the heat with a coffee waveFellow Mighty Small Glass Carafe Clear bringing the heat with a coffee wave

From beginning to end, the community impact has been the vision of Handbrew Publication. When we share recipes, when we learn from others, the coffee in our mugs improves. And when we support our coffee farmers, the coffee in the broader community’s mugs also improves. Reach for your copy of Handbrew, and reach beyond your own mug.


Pressing an Aeropress on the cover of Handbrew PublicationPressing an 
Aeropress on the cover of Handbrew Publication

The Kickstarter campaign is very close to launching and you'll want to be on top of the release if you're keen for some exclusive merchandise. Check out handbrewpublication.ca to subscribe and be the first to know and support this project.